With Manual Control Comes Great Power and Responsibility

Last week, I got my new camera, the Canon Powershot SD 990 IS, just in time to use it during the weekend. I went with some friends to the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch to check out the pumpkin patch and to (try to) go through the Amazing Corn Maze. I was really looking forward to the photo-taking opportunity because I envisioned a very colorful environment. I particularly wanted to take advantage of the camera’s special color selection mode to highlight the orangeness of the pumpkins.

Alas, when I got home, I was underwhelmed by the results. Some of the photographs did not look very colorful and in fact looked kind of bluish. I could see the photographs in an album in Picasa underneath another album taken by my old camera, Canon Powershot S45, that had much more vibrantly colorful photographs of roses. I was thinking that I would need to return the camera. I was glad that I bought it from Costco, which has a relatively generous 90 day return policy. I then thought maybe I should take some test shots with the same subjects and compare the two cameras when I had time and interesting, colorful subjects.

When I picked up my camera to check on something else, I noticed that the color balance was on Indoor-Tungsten/Incandescent. That would totally explain the weird coloring since incandescent lighting makes things reddish, so to counteract that, the camera would need to add blue. However, if the actual environment isn’t reddish, there is not enough to counteract the bluishness.

I posted examples below to illustrate my point. I double-checked the EXIF data to confirm that it’s not my imagination that I had the wrong setting for white balance.

Guess which one is which.

The second one was the one that was on the Tungsten setting.

That was an important lesson, and a tip that I would like to pass on so that others do not have ruined photographs. I got a camera that gives me a lot of manual control over settings but because I was not careful, I got some disappointing results.

As for the corn maze, three of us were prepared with headlamps, since we were doing the night time version of the maze. We heard a lot of maze goers express their envy of our preparedness, though some were obviously annoyed at the lights shining in their eyes in an otherwise very dark environment. It took quite a while for us to figure things out and we kept ending up in the same spots. When we were 3/4 of the way through, someone gave us the solution, unsolicited. I was kind of annoyed and grateful. It kind of spoiled the experience to know how to get out without effort other than walking, but it was kind of frustrating also to be lost.

9 thoughts on “With Manual Control Comes Great Power and Responsibility”

  1. Thanks for the post! My wife and I are in the market for a new POS, and the SD990 is at the top of my list. I was curious what memory card you opted for, about how many photos you’re able to place on it, and the overall file size of each photo. Also, are you experiencing much noise, either at low or high ISO settings?

    Any thoughts are much appreciated.


  2. Hi Chris,

    I got the SanDisk Ultra II SDHC 4GB SD Memory Card. I have yet to max out the storage space since I would download the photos soon afterward to check them out, and then delete the photos on the camera. Currently, with one protected photo stored on the card, I could take 1041 photos at Large size in Fine quality. The file sizes vary from 2MB to 6.5MB, from what I see but it could be a wider range. This is probably due to the amount of detail in the photographs and how much compression could be accomplished.

    For more data, check out the table of the Number of Recordable Images at the Canon website.

    As for noise, that would be great if I could learn how to test for it. I did a search on how to put a new camera to the test but only found articles on how camera review sites conducted their tests but I did not find them useful for what I wanted to do.

    Good luck with your search. I found my camera search hard, confusing, and frustrating when I was just looking at pictures and specs of the numerous cameras. When I finally held the SD990 IS in my hands and played with it, I just knew it was the one for me.

  3. Thanks so much for that. Trying to decide if I should buy the camera. Its good to know that even after you had struggles, you were still happy with your choice

  4. Thank you for posting your initial observations on this camera. I am also in the market for a new compact digital camera. I have a 30D and an XTi, but I also like having a small pocket camera. For the past few years I’ve been using a Sony DSC-T33. I love the size, but my main complaints with the Sony camera are:

    * it’s often very slow to focus. I miss a lot of shots as a result

    * it’s absolutely terrible in low light

    * in video mode, you can’t zoom while shooting

    * in video mode, under varying lighting condition the autofocus often “hunts” erratically

    I have read the 990 shoots quickly, but I’d be curious to know how well it works in low light, and if you’ve experimented much with the aperture-priority mode.

  5. I am considering the purchase of this camera (Canon Powershot SD990IS) vs. the 10 MP Canon PowerShot SD880IS.

    There are very few reviews, most of them are gushy Canon lovers (I am one too, but this is for a friend who isn’t exactly tech savvy).

    After viewing your pictures, and the complexity of tweaks required to get decent photos, I’m not terribly sure if it makes sense to pay almost $75 more for the 990. Esp. since both are technically, point and shoots.

    Do you regret purchasing the 990 after a disappointing shoot (irrespective of who is to blame)? Also, what are your views on using it in auto-mode, would it lessen the complication a bit?

    Thanks for an honest review.

    http://www.noiZemag.com/ The Gay voice of America

  6. Hi Sam,

    On the contrary, I love my 990. I went to NYC and got some pretty cool shots. It’s small enough to fit in my purse so I always have it with me to capture random moments.

    As for getting it as a gift for a friend who isn’t tech savvy, my personal opinion is to save your money and go for the less expensive one. If your friend is not a gadget snob, then I think you can live with the fact that you are already getting him/her a very nice gift in the 880IS. :)

    One thing that the 880IS doesn’t have, though, is an optical viewfinder. I thought that was going to be an issue because I sometimes needed it with my 5-year-old Canon camera in bright conditions. However, I haven’t had to use the viewfinder that the 990 has despite shooting in various situations. I would guess the 880 screen would be comparable, if not just bigger.

    I hope that helped.

  7. Thanks love.

    Your insightful suggestions have helped me make up my mind. I think the optical view finder sealed the deal for the 990.

    It’s crazy trying to take angled shots with an LCD screen, esp. outdoors. Plus, I sometimes prefer the LCD off to maximize battery life.

    I had a question for you. How much did you pay for the cam and where’d you buy it from? I am considering a purchase from Amazon, they have dropped the price, a black one was retailing for $314 vs. $330 for silver.

    Also, what kind of memory card would you recommend with this 14 mega-pixel whopper? I cannot imagine using the standard 32 MB it comes along with to store any more than 5-6 pics. I’m conflicted between a 4GB and 8GB SD card? Or do I need to consider 16 GB?

    Finally, any thoughts on the video capture? Is it in a proprietary format (.mov)? I’d really like the flexibility to edit .avi’s, but that’s not a deal breaker.

    Thank you so much for your help. Happy clicking!

    http://www.noiZemag.com/ The Gay voice of America

  8. Hey Sam,

    I’m glad that I was able to help you make a decision. :)

    Turning off the LCD screen was also one of the ways I tried to save battery power with my old Canon S45. This new one has a much longer battery life. I was able to go without charging it for about 5 days. With my old Canon, sometimes two charged batteries were barely enough for one day.

    I bought my black Canon 990IS soon after its release in October from costco.com for $380 :-\. I paid the early adopter tax, apparently. I didn’t want to wait long because I was going to NYC in November and wanted to have plenty of time to test/experiment. At the time, amazon had it for a few dollars cheaper, if I recall correctly, but I went with costco due to its 90 day return policy, which would give me plenty of time to play with it before deciding I wanted to keep it.

    I am using a 4GB card and it served me more than adequately for a week’s trip in NYC. By the end of the trip, I had 375 photos on the card, with space to take 650 more photos.

    The video is in .mov format.

  9. wow sounds fantastic does this camera give good video recording because i was thinking we could use it to record our dance shows and how good are the pictures since they say it uses scene detection?

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